After years of television and indie film directing, it looked like Will Stone had finally gotten his break. His agent had called him about taking a meeting with Metamount Pictures, the legendary Hollywood studio known for its mega-blockbusters. Although Will didn’t have much to go on other than the concept was low and the budget high, he felt that he could work with that.
But this. He wasn’t quite sure he could work with this.
"Let me get this straight. You want me to direct a reboot of a film franchise that hasn't even been released yet?" Will tried to be respectful, as the executives sitting across from him in the small conference room were two of the most important men in Hollywood.
"Yes!" The first executive replied. He was short, bald, and thin, and thanks to too many facelifts his eyebrows were permanently raised in surprise.
"It is highly anticipated," the second executive added. He was older, and his face looked like one of those wrinkly dogs from China. The lines around his mouth seemed to make him look like he was smiling even when he wasn’t. Will had been told they were named Murphy and Gwynn, but he didn’t know which was which, and no one else seemed to really know either.
Will decided to just go with it, the prospect of a big payday overcoming his desire to politely decline their ridiculous idea. "So when will the first film be released?"
"It’s a franchise, not a film, Mister Stone," said the first executive.
The second executive nodded. "A franchise."
After closing his eyes and taking a breath, Will corrected himself: "So when will the franchise be released?”
"Well," the first executive paused and then looked at the second executive, "the script hasn’t been written yet."
"Ah, I see." Will did his best to enjoy the absurdity of the request but felt annoyed instead. “So how am I to remake this film—sorry, franchise—without knowing what the original was about?"
The first executive frowned, his facelift making him look like he was surprised to be frowning. "Not a remake, Mister Stone. A reboot."
"Yes, a reboot," the second executive added, all smiles. "You know, take the concept and then bring your unique style to the resulting film."
Will wasn’t quite sure where this could possibly go next, so he decided to do his best to at least clarify how big his own role would be. "But isn’t the reboot part of the franchise, too? So will I be working on more than just directing the one film?" Will was thinking producer credits, but a string of big money sequels to direct wasn’t a bad scenario either.
The first executive frowned. "I’m sorry if we weren’t clear. You’re just to work on the one film. The franchise is bigger than the reboot."
The second executive piped in. "The franchise is bigger than all of us."
"Yes, all of us," the first executive added, nodding.
Will tried to think of the request in Hollywood terms, which generally meant tossing reality aside.
He’d be making a film that probably wouldn’t be released for years. There were plenty of examples of those. He’d also be rebooting a franchise. There were plenty examples of those, too. Sure, the timing was a bit ambitious—giving the greenlight on a reboot before the original franchise had even gotten its legs under it—but everything seemed to move faster in Hollywood these days.
The first executive must have sensed that Will was unsure, as he added, "The budget is two-hundred million dollars."
Will replied "yes" so quickly the second executive didn’t even have time to comment.
It took three bourbons, two beers, and a Baywatch marathon for Will to clear his mind enough to grasp the reality that he was now required to actually write and direct The Further Adventures of the Star Wanderer. At least the money was also real. His agent had sent him a bottle of very expensive champagne and a note that said simply, "Thank you for not being an idiot."
The biggest problem was that he wasn’t exactly sure what he was rebooting. The notes from the studio executives on The Star Wanderer were so vague as to be useless. They looked like a patchwork quilt of Firefly, Star Wars, Star Trek, and a dash of Battlestar Galactica. He had requested a script, but thus far all he’d been sent were bottles of wine with supportive notes from the studio.
On a lark and more than a little drunk, Will decided to just take the first act of Star Wars, add in some Star Trek in the second act, and then conclude with his version of Firefly. The characters would wander the galaxy for work after some kind of rebel/imperial battle that ended when the noble captain of an expeditionary ship discovers an advanced race that brought peace. He couldn’t figure out how to get Battlestar Galactica shoehorned in, so he just left it out.
He sent the script to Metamount studios, assuming that they would finally send him the script of The Star Wanderer. As expected, he was called into the studio executives’ office the next day. His agent said they were angry, but Will figured that after all they put him through, they’d understand him tossing them a joke script.
"I’m sorry; I’m not sure I understand," Will replied, staring at the two executives, anger visible on their faces. The first one looked surprised that he was angry. The other one looked happy he was angry.
"We asked for a reboot, Mister Stone!" The first executive stabbed his finger on the script. "This is a copy of the plot of The Star Wanderer!"
"We expected daring, Mister Stone. We expected creativity, Mister Stone." The second executive sighed. "Not a rehash like this."
"Now, now," the first executive said to the second executive. "As this is a private conversation and we’re all friends, I do think it is fair to say that this is actually a much better script than the one we have for The Star Wanderer."
"Indeed," said the second executive. "But it is still a rehash!"
"Wait a second," Will tried to grasp what he was hearing. "You mean this is the plot of The Star Wanderer?"
The second executive’s smile wavered. "Don’t play coy with us, Mister Stone. We’re not sure how you got a copy of the script." He shot a glance at the first executive, who looked surprised at the implication of his involvement. "We’ve been very diligent about keeping that under wraps, but it’s clear you know."
Will didn’t like hearing that he was copying someone else, and the fact that he was seen as copying something so obviously awful made it even worse. He started to stand up to leave when the first executive held up his hands and blurted out, "Now, now, Mister Stone. This is certainly fixable. We just want you to not be so blatant in your reboot. As my esteemed partner said: Be daring! Be creative! Maybe add a lost colony drifting through space or something."
"Or pirates. Everyone likes pirates."
"Yes, pirates are good!"
"Reboot, not remake!" the second executive added.
Will slid back into his chair and muttered, "But the first movie hasn’t even been made yet."
"Exactly!" the first executive said.
"Dry powder!" the second executive said.
"And then reboot!"
The first executive stood up. "It’s the future of film-making, Mister Stone."
Will had to hand it to Metamount Pictures. The budget on the film was enormous, and he was thoroughly enjoying the process. He was walking actors around green screens with the knowledge he’d have an insane post-production SFX budget. He was blowing up massive live sets that must have cost millions of dollars. And the catering budget was enormous.
He had also finally wrangled the script to a point where it was a vague mix of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Firefly without really being any of the three. He still couldn’t fit in Battlestar Galactica, but the executives seemed okay with it.
It was at exactly this point of enjoying and accepting the odd position he had been put in when he was called back to the Metamount offices for an emergency meeting.
"We have problems, Mister Stone." The first executive had circles under his eyes, while the second executive looked older and more wrinkled, if that was possible. Will had been called into the corner office a few times during filming in his directing career, but it was usually over budget or behavior issues, neither of which seemed a concern here.
"I’m sorry, is there a problem with the movie?"
The second executive pinched his nose with his fingers, and replied, "Indeed there is, which is why we need your help."
"Yes, the script for The Star Wanderer was rejected by the star of the franchise, and I don’t mean to tell you what that means, do I, Mister Stone?"
"No star. No franchise." The first executive added.
"Wait, is this about my film?"
The two executives looked at each other and then laughed. The first executive shook his head and replied, "Goodness, no, Mister Stone. Your film is going wonderfully, which is why we need your help. We love what we are seeing with The Further Adventures of the Star Wanderer, so we are hoping you would help us as a script consultant on The Star Wanderer."
"Script consultant?" They both nodded. "So The Star Wanderer hasn’t even started filming yet?"
"Not yet, Mister Stone."
"But we have high hopes."
"It’s a franchise."
"Which is why you’re rebooting it."
"Exactly, rebooting it."
"But we could use your help on it."
Will surprised himself by considering the offer. He had somehow become quite fond of the franchise, or at least his reboot of it. So he wanted it to start well. Still, he was working long hours already. "I’m not sure. I’m rather busy with this film."
"We’ll give you points on the back end," the first executive replied.
"Back ends are nice," the second executive added.
By then the two voices had kind of blended into one, but the comment about points caught Stone’s attention. For the second time in the Metamount Pictures development offices he uttered the words, "I’ll do it."
He spent that night working on the script of The Star Wanderer while blocking scenes for the next day’s shoot of The Further Adventures of The Star Wanderer. It took the same amount of beer but a few more bourbons for him to make it through.
There was still no release date for his film, but then again there was no release date for The Star Wanderer yet, either. Will was only a few days from turning in the movie, and it made him sad. The actors were great. The special effects were groundbreaking, and the movie was something he felt proud of. He had taken the iconic elements of some of the most familiar science fiction staples and added his own touch of humanity, pathos, and humor. He would never say it publicly, but he felt that he had somehow turned mass-market schlock into art.
It was at this point that he was once again called into the Metamount Development office.
There was a bottle of champagne front and center on the conference room table, so Will knew that this was finally going to be a good meeting. The studio executives were relatively quiet about the dailies, but the final print had wowed everyone. Perhaps this was the meeting when they would announce a date for The Star Wanderer. Then his film would be released, what, six months later?
"First of all, congratulations on your film, Mister Stone. We absolutely love it."
"Thank you. I have to admit that I’m rather proud of the whole thing." Will leaned back and stretched his legs. He hadn’t been this relaxed in a studio office in a long time.
The first executive stood up and walked around the conference table and sat on the edge. "There has, however, been one change." Stone looked at the second executive who didn’t add his customary commentary. He just nodded. "We’ve decided not to release The Star Wanderer."
Will pulled himself up in his chair. "Wait a second. You’re not going to release the movie that my movie is going to reboot?"
The second executive waved his finger. "No, no, no. You’re rebooting the franchise."
"Yes, a franchise is bigger than a movie," the first executive added.
Will looked from one executive to the other. He was getting angry. He had played their stupid game, idiotic as it seemed, and finished with a damn good movie. Now, everything seemed doomed. "You do realize that I added references to the previous movie in The Further Adventures of the Star Wanderer?" Will had used his work with the first movie’s script to subtly set up things in his movie. They were the kind of details that hardcore fans latched on to. As he filmed, he saw them as fortuitous. Now they were fundamental problems. In fact, at least one of them left a glaring plot hole. "There are key pieces that won’t even work without the first movie!"
"Calm down, Mister Stone," the first executive reached for the champagne. "There is opportunity in change!"
"Opportunity." The second executive nodded.
"The buzz around The Star Wanderer is so great that it has exceeded even our expectations. We have coverage on every major scifi site on the Internet. There have been interviews with the director everywhere. The stars have become staples at cons. Do you know what cosplay is, Mister Stone?" Will nodded. "Well, there was more Star Wanderer cosplay at the recent San Diego Comicon than for Firefly."
"Firefly is a massive cult hit," the second executive helpfully added.
"So you can be sure that most people will already know the story." Will wasn’t sure of that, but before he could reply, the first executive started to fiddle with the top of the champagne bottle as he continued. "In short, Mister Stone, the buzz around The Star Wanderer is so great that we are certain that actually releasing the movie will lead to disappointment."
The second executive stood up, nodding. "Disappointment is not good for a franchise."
The cork on the bottle of champagne popped, and the first executive held up the bottle. "So we’re going straight to reboot!"
"Genius!" the second executive added as the first executive filled up the glasses with champagne. Will took his glass and finally realized he had to get out of Hollywood.
The idea actually made sense to him.
Copyright 2013, Jake Kerr